Kenyan Opposition Lawyer Detained at Airport on Arrival

A Kenyan opposition leader remains detained at Nairobi airport, barred from entering the country despite a judge’s order that authorities allow him to appear before the High Court Wednesday. The standoff has called into question the public reconciliation of Kenya’s top political rivals earlier this month.

Opposition supporters on Wednesday blocked the main highway linking the cities of Kisumu and Kakamega, lighting bonfires. The protesters were demanding the release of high-ranking opposition leader Miguna Miguna.

Kenya’s High Court on Tuesday ordered that Miguna be released and appear in court on Wednesday morning.  But the government did not comply.

The court has ordered three senior government officials to appear in court Thursday to face sentencing for defying the court order.  

Miguna’s lawyer, Nelson Havi, said Miguna’s detention at Nairobi airport is illegal and a violation of his rights.

“He is held up in a confined area, actually, in a washroom without sufficient space to even move around,” said Havi.He has not been provided food. He has not been given access to us as his lawyers. We have been at the airport since yesterday morning. We were not able to see him.”

Miguna was first arrested in January.  His arrest was linked to his involvement with the so-called swearing-in of Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga as “the people’s president.”  

Authorities deported Miguna to Canada, where he is a citizen.

He tried to return to Kenya on Monday. His lawyer and the government disagree what happened next.

Officials said Miguna refused to enter Kenya on a Canadian passport and refused to take up an offer of a six-month visa, insisting he was not a foreigner.

Mwenda Njokais the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.  He said Miguna is making trouble for himself on purpose.  

“He is just being asked to do what everybody does at the airport. You arrive, and you give the passport,” Njoka said. “It’s stamped, and you are allowed in. What is so difficult for him to do that?”

Havi said Miguna is a Kenyan citizen by birth and can enter the country as he pleases.  

“The government has Miguna’s passport.  What they need to do is to reissue that passport, stamp the entry and Miguna — Kaboom — is inside the country,” said Havi.

Havi told VOA he is asking the courts to order Miguna’s immediate release and readmit him to the country.

The attorney said the governments acting in contempt of court orders and setting a dangerous precedent.

Njoka said the government is not violating any court orders.

“We gave him an opportunity. He just wants to be treated special,” Njoka said. “Let me just summarize it this way — he is a drama queen who wants to be given special treatment, and he enjoys that kind of publicity.”

Earlier this month, Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that they will work together, an initiative both sides said was aimed at healing divisions caused by last year’s presidential election.

Miguna was against the newfound unity and accused Odinga of betraying his millions of supporters.

During Miguna’s detainment this week, Odinga was present for a couple of hours and could be seen trying to prevent his re-deportation by immigration officials.

Odinga has since remained silent on the matter.


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